History of the Cathedral

St. Michael's Celebrates 100 Years
by Eve Chandler

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cathedralMay 2002 marked the 100th anniversary of the building of St. Michael's Cathedral. The English Gothic style Cathedral was built with sandstone from nearby Table Rock. Bishop James Funsten and the Rev. Charles Deuel dedicated St. Michael's Cathedral May 25, 1902 with an overflowing crowd of 500 in attendance and hundreds were turned away for lack of room.

The history of St. Michael's is intertwined with the development of the city of Boise. The first Episcopal service was held in August, 1864, a little more than a year after the town of Boise was formed on July 7, 1863. By 1866, the Rev. Saint Michael Fackler had raised $1500 in gold to build St. Michael's Church, the first Episcopal church in the vast territory which now comprises the states of Idaho, Utah and Montana. Today this church has been renamed Christ Chapel and stands on the Boise State University campus, in the shadow of Bronco stadium.

From the beginning St. Michael's was an integral part of the spiritual, cultural and musical life of Boise. The women's auxiliary regularly offered concerts, dances and socials that provided civilized entertainment in a young mining town still known for gunfights in the streets. The money raised at these events contributed towards the $25,000 needed to build the new Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral began September 7, 1899.

cathedral1The Idaho Daily Statesman editorialized the day after the Cathedral's dedication, "May the life of the church in the handsome new edifice be yet brighter and may it be more influential than ever upon the life of the community.... may its usefulness increase, and may the beauty of its example become more and more deeply impressed in the public mind."

A short 6 months after Bishop Funsten dedicated the Cathedral, he opened St. Luke's Hospital with six beds. Nurses were scarce, so St. Luke's Hospital added a school of nursing the following year. For decades, St. Michael's Women's Auxiliary supported the hospital by making bandages and dressings for surgery, furnishing patient rooms, sewing layettes for the nursery and buying lab equipment. Thousands of dollars were raised annually at the church-sponsored St. Luke's Ball. A non-profit board now owns the hospital.

The Episcopal church started St. Margaret's Hall in 1892, offering a classical education for girls. In 1932, with Boise families feeling the strain of the depression and competition from public schools, St. Margaret's Hall was converted into Boise Junior College by Episcopal Bishop Middleton Barnwell. He spent the summer of 1932 writing curriculum, recruiting faculty and building benches in the science lab. The new college leased St. Margaret's Hall for one dollar a year.

The contributions of St. Michael's Cathedral to the community have continued in other ways. The Cathedral's organist Eugene Farner began Music Week in 1919, the first non-commercial, sponsored music festival in the country. Since the opening of the Cathedral, a long tradition of music and organ concerts have been held for the community.

The pioneer spirit of giving to the community still motivates members of St. Michael's Cathedral today. Homemade clam chowder and pies are served to Boiseans at Lenten Lunches. The Cathedral outreach includes operation of a thrift shop, and a food cupboard that provides sack lunches for the hungry.

 

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